The remains of the five Nigerian Air Force combat crew, who lost their lives in a Mi-35M attack helicopter crash during an operation against Boko Haram insurgents last week, have been laid to rest.
The deceased officers and airmen were buried on Tuesday after the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar, led colleagues, friends and family members to pay their last respect to the fallen personnel at the military cemetery along the Airport Road, Abuja.
The deceased were Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob (pilot), Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Kilyofas (co-pilot), Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim (flight technician), Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (gunner) and Aircraft Man Meshack Ishmael, also a gunner.
They were aboard an air force helicopter providing close air support for the ground troops from the 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno State, when the crash occurred around 7.30pm on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.
The helicopter was one of the two attack aircraft procured from Russia in February 2017 and inducted into the Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East.
The deceased were honoured with 21 gun salute (firing of volley) as well as the last post. The air chief also presented the national colours to the families of the deceased crew members.
In a short address at the sombre event, Abubakar described the late air force officers and airmen as true heroes, who paid the ultimate price to protect the integrity of their fatherland.
After calling out the names of each of the deceased, Abubakar said, “These five heroes met their untimely death on January 2, 2019, at Damasak, in active service of our fatherland.
“These gallant heroes lost their lives in the pursuit of the peace, which we all enjoy and often take for granted. We salute the courage of these young men, whose lot it became to give their lives for this purpose.
“The loss of these courageous and professional gentlemen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves to the service of our nation, but also to resolve that we expose and fight all agents of destabilisation and extremism in our society.
“We must throw in everything we have to this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain.”
He consoled the families of the deceased, stating, “I know Nigerians everywhere join me in praying for you as you shoulder this heavy burden of grief.
“May time ease the searing pain of today and please note that the entire nation shares this grief with you. There can be no better consolation than the knowledge that the nation grieves with you on the loss of these amiable and patriotic Nigerians, who paid the supreme price in the course of their duty to the fatherland.”
When the wife of the pilot, Diepreye, was contacted, her telephone number was switched off. However, a source close to the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fate of the wife of the deceased remained uncertain, adding that nothing had been said about compensating her and others whose breadwinners died in the crash.
The source said, “For now, we don’t know the plan the military have for her (Diepreye) and other families. These people don’t care, because in time past when incidents like this happened, they would kick the family out of the (military) base after some time. But the good thing is that she has a supportive family.”